on August 16, 2000
Thank you, Cooper Square, for reissuing Hall's valuable book. Elaine and Bill deserves a wide-based readership. Biography readers interested in Elaine and/or Willem de Kooning in particular, or American artists of this century in general, will learn a great deal. Hall's friendship with Elaine lays the groundwork and is enhanced by her discussions with friends (and wannabee friends) of both painters--although after the fact some refused to acknowledge their participation. The author also brings long-delayed attention to Elaine's neglected painting--art that is very much her own, not the weaker shadow of her husband's work often suggested.
Perhaps this book's principal contribution, however, is its cool and calm expos of the "art world's" best-kept secret: that, at base, it is a fraud that has less to do with expression than financial gain. Readers get a clear, well-written, and easily believable picture of an artist's life during that time of near-mythical when hard drinkin', butch fightin', and tough paintin' were the mainstays of New York's boy-culture art scene of the 50s and into the 60s. The book provides a much-wanted description of why there's so little "there" there in the articles by the likes of Greenberg and Rosenberg. In light of their various affairs--both amorous and financial-one understands how these critics' and their cronies' small-scale star making paved a sort of on-ramp to the market-driven farce the art world is today.
By all means read Elaine and Bill. It is fascinating reading on many levels and, when all is said and done, provides a window--for some too clean and revealing a window--into the machinery driving the manufacture of art today.
on April 11, 2012
This is a letter written by Ernestine Lassaw and published in the East Hampton Star at the time of the publication of Elaine and Bill by Lee Hall.
For those of us who knew both Elaine and Bill very well this book is a twisted bunch of lies.Had Elaine lived to see this she would have been very angry. Denise
Comments on Lee Hall's book : Elaine and Bill: Portrait of A Marriage
pp: Lassaw, Ibram-pp.19, 97, 254, 306,311, 41, 294, 73,74
Ernestine Lassaw pp.255, 45, 47, 175, 26-27, 41, 294, 311
Letters to the Editor, East Hampton Star
Errors Too Numerous
Springs, July 10, 1993
I'd like to say, contrary to the general impression, I did not write Lee Hall's book for her.
Since no complimentary copy was ever sent to us, we had to buy one in order to discover how many errors seem to be our contribution to the life of the de Kooning's. Sadly, they are too numerous to enumerate.
We disclaim any credit or cash for that matter due from the book, "Bill and Elaine"" or is it "Elaine and Bill"? There is an old French pharse Ibram likes to quote, "La trahison des clercs."
Sincerely, Ernestine Lassaw
July 20, 1993 ( a letter from Ernestine in the files. Don't know if it was ever published )
In reference to Lee Hall's book, "Elaine & Bill"
I will attempt to set the record straight on the quotes directly attributed to me but that does not mean there are not hundreds of errors too numerous to mention.
Page 26. Milton, Elaine and I shared a place on Fourth Avenue near 29th St. and later on E. 22 St. but never on 9th Street.
Page 47: This story had nothing to do with jackson Pollock and the war plant! Ibram worked at a display place and he got Elaine a job there. I had to make two sandwiches every day because Elaine never had lunch and always begged helf of Ibram's.
Maire never said, "Why couldn't you have married Ibram!!". She simply siad, "Ernestine married a real prince charming."
page 97 elaine and Mercedes were not among the original members (of the Club) but after much lobbying they were the first women members.
Page99 Drinking was not the purpose of the Club, as she would have one think. Talking was the purpose and there was drinking of alcohol only at parties when one of th ewomen would pass around a basket. The drunks usually came there already loaded.
Page 175 I'm sure I never said those words but it true that Elaine never considered divorce.
Page 83 I hope I am not so stupid as to say what she quotes me as saying. however, I might have said, "lots of artists were influeneced by Bill."
Page 311 a better quote for Ibram would be, "I try not to think about how Bill would feel if he could read this book".
on November 20, 2002
This book is just chock-full of rumor and gossip, much of which is totally insubstantiated. Some of the 'facts' are just plain wrong. With friends like Lee Hall, who needs enemies? Do yourself a favor and if you do read this, read it with more than a few grains of salt. There are better stories about the New York School - John Myers' memoir comes to mind, for one.